Friday, June 3, 2011

What's in a name?

I'm not a fan of political nicknames.  To me they don't mean much, and usually become just another slur, used to somehow depict that the person or persons being described are somehow inherently wrong, simply because they belong to particular party or ascribe to a particular position on an issue.

The term Liberal used to mean someone who wasn't a Conservative.  Now, of course, the normal use is to decry someone as being...well, almost less than human.  Certain parts of the political parties are now called the Base, and you don't cross them if you want to be elected.  There used to be Socialists and Communists, but they seem to have disappeared, lumped into some other negative descriptor.

In short, most of these terms are little different than that infamous N word, and they carry the same intent for those using them.  There is one term, however, that I find interesting, but only because it is so self-contradictory.  That term is the Tea Party.

The term, at least as it's used today, signifies a portion of what has traditionally been the Republican Party, although I don't think it's exclusively members from that side of the aisle.  Depending upon whom you ask, the group has a couple of core issues.  One is reduction of Federal Spending, and a corresponding reduction in the Federal Deficit.  I suspect a good number of people support those goals, although not everyone sees them from such a rigid viewpoint.

During the last election, a number of Tea Party candidates were elected, and many of them have taken an all-or-nothing approach to the legislative process.  From the outside, it appears they do that partly because they cannot forget the people who helped them get elected.  Maybe the believe that the legislative process can work that way.  It can't, and it never will, but...if that's what they believe, that's fine.  They ran on that basis, so...I guess we'll see how it works out.

However, that isn't what truly interests me about the group.

The original tea party, commonly known as the Boston Tea Party, was organized by an independent group who believed strongly in the principle of "no taxation without representation."  The tea they tossed into Boston harbor was a symbolic rebellion against the English crown who unilaterally imposed taxes on the colonies.  The colonists were not represented in that government, and they didn't like it.

Personally I agree with them.  It's one of the core principles in the Declaration of Independence.

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

So, at the risk of over-simplification, the name Tea Party has some significant history, built upon a central principle.  However, there are more than 600,000 people living in the United States today who still live under that same situation, and the Tea Party, and the officials they have championed, don't seem to care.  In fact, they seem to relish the idea.  Let me identify a few of those specific issues.

Because the Constitution of the United States grants representation in Congress to the States, the District of Columbia...the nation's capitol city...has no representation.  600,000 people live there, but are represented in Congress one!  They pay Federal Taxes, they are governed by all the same Federal Laws, but they have no vote in Congress.  In fact, it's even worse.

Congress is charged with direct oversight of the District, so Congress gets to approve the city budget and has the power to overrule any law the city passes to regulate itself.  Until 1973 they didn't even get to elect their own city council.

Now, that's bad enough.  But it gets worse.  Because Congress has that direct authority, they use it.  They also really like to abuse it.  For example, during a recent legislative brawl, the Republicans demanded that Washington DC stop allowing money to go to Planned Parenthood...not for abortions, but for everything!  That was the price for agreeing to pass some other, completely unrelated bill.

When the last attempt to grant some form of representation came up, Representative Ensign, who recently resigned from the House under rather unpleasant circumstances, tacked on a rider that said Washington would have to give up their gun control laws to be awarded representation.  Washington is the Congressional playground, because there is no one to stand up for them.  It's called Taxation without Representation.

Now, it seems to me that if you want to claim the moniker Tea Party, then it's about time you started living up to the principles behind the name.  If not, well...then it's just another derogatory term for a political point of's one you brought upon yourselves.

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